Goldman Gossip: Is DJ CEO being spun by predecessor in press?

So, Goldman Sachs posted earnings this week. On the birthday of CEO, David Solomon, no less. Reportedly, it was a tough phone call, with Solomon on his back foot at times, given the worse-than-expected results. These came right after the bank laid off 3,200 employees on what was nick-named “David’s Demolition Day.” And right before Solomon jetted off to the World Economic Forum in Davos.

One of the reported highlights of the bloodbath was that employees were summoned to work for “phony” meetings. This, unfortunately, is not an uncommon practice on Wall Street. “How else do you do it?” one senior banker at a competitive firm asked me rhetorically. “It’s not nice. But everyone is a grown-up.”

Solomon has received extra criticism, perhaps because he is such an unusual Wall Street CEO. He’s a DJ at night. And there have been reports of his many weekend breaks on board the firm’s private planes, and an investigation into whether the expense for those is justified.

Read the rest at “Vicky Ward Investigates.”

As Jared Plots World Domination, Ivanka Seems to Have Settled into Floridian Retirement

A small item today, but I promised you I’d share all things great and small, so here it is.

What the heck is going on with Ivanka Trump in Miami?

I don’t mean just the bizarre photographs of Ivanka’s hair last week. One moment, on Wednesday of last week, she was photographed leaving the salon with it cut into a bob that was pulled back.

Just days later, if you looked at her Instagram, she miraculously had her usual look: hair down past her shoulders.

Okay, so she may wear hair extensions, whatever. No problem with that.

But the photographs of her very-quickly-evolving hairstyle emphasize a bigger story.

While she had her shorter look, she played golf at the very waspy (and, reputationally, antisemitic) golf club, the Everglades. Then, apparently—at least according to photographs in the Daily Mail—she and Kushner had people over to their swank apartment in Miami. And then, the next day, apparently, she got her long hair back.

I couldn’t help but think about the extraordinary extremes Ivanka’s ambitions, like her hair, have seemingly swung between.

Read the rest at “Vicky Ward Investigates.”

Saudi-Owned LIV Golf Has Put Millions into Trump’s Pockets

Here’s why we should all care about this little report in a nonprofit publication founded by slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi: It reveals that the LIV Golf tour is 93 percent owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which is controlled by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. That means that MBS has been effectively using his corporate cover to pay who knows how much to Donald Trump’s golf businesses.

Trump has now hosted two LIV events at his golf clubs. What we should be asking is: Given the preferential treatment to Saudi Arabia by the Trump Administration and the allegations of self-dealing by Jared Kushner, was there a quid pro quo with Trump?

Sports ownership, increasingly, is a great way for authoritarian regimes such as Saudi Arabia to win influence over Western countries under the guise of something apparently popular and harmless.

But just how desperate those regimes can be to curry favor in the West was revealed on Friday in a British newspaper report about British academic Matthew Hedges.

I interviewed Hedges in November about the World Cup. Readers may recall that he specializes in the Middle East. In 2018, Hedges was pursuing a doctorate in the security of the United Arab Emirates (Saudi Arabia’s ally and neighbor), when he was detained in the UAE, imprisoned, and tortured in solitary confinement for six months. He was forced to sign a confession document in Arabic, saying he worked for MI6. (He has since said, as has Britain’s Foreign Office, that he did not and does not work for British Intelligence.) Hedges says he only signed the document because he hoped it would secure his release.

In 2021, via the UK foreign office, Hedges sued four UAE officials he alleges were complicit in falsely imprisoning and torturing him. Six months ago, Hedges testified to the UN’s Committee on Torture. The UAE handed the UN a dossier, claiming it showed photographs from CCTV proving Hedges was not treated inhumanely—because it showed him on a bed, reading a book, and talking to a doctor. The dossier also contained sensitive private information about Hedges and his family. It was not made public.

Then, in November, Hedges came to Washington to talk privately to think tanks in DC about his new research on the UAE’s increasingly close alliance with Russia throughout the war in Ukraine.

Here’s our Q&A about what happened next.

Listen to the interview or read a transcript at “Vicky Ward Investigates.”

The royal tragedy at the heart of ‘Spare’

Maybe “Megxit” was never about Meghan Markle. Maybe it was always driven by Prince Harry, who, in his American wife, found the much-needed catalyst to leave a family where he could never outrun the feeling of being second-best. The spare as opposed to the heir.

This is not simply my opinion. It’s the central theme and story of “Spare,” the prince’s wildly buzzy new autobiography. I read the book this week, in one sitting. It has made headlines for its various gossipy nuggets — Harry dunks on William hair loss! William punches Harry! And it easily pivots between heartfelt and introspective to petty and naive. But to my surprise, I shed a tear for the protagonist at the end. Because I think what the book really reveals is an ultimately complicated man who has been truly traumatized by the preordained details of his birth order. He is a man motivated less by higher principles, perhaps, than by a sincerely felt insecurity. That insecurity has haunted and molded his psyche, from childhood to adulthood. And his latest life chapter with Meghan merely confirms a lifelong lament.

The term “spare” is used in this memoir literally dozens of times. Harry tells us there’s not a moment since his birth where he’s not felt relegated. Even his birth is diminished because, he learns, his father Charles feels that now that he’s got a spare, his paternal duties are over. “I was twenty the first time I heard the story of what Pa allegedly said to Mummy the day of my birth,” Harry writes. “Wonderful! Now you’ve given me an Heir and a Spare — my work is done. A joke. Presumably.”

Harry says he felt like the spare as a young boy because Prince Charles and William were never supposed to go on the same plane, so that if one died, the other would survive. But no one cared what plane Harry was on. He felt like the spare when it was suggested that William walk behind his mother’s casket without him (that did not happen). And he says he believes British tabloids singled him out because of his second-son vulnerability, calling it a “public sacrifice of the spare.”

Indeed, Harry’s resentment of William colors so many moments in the book; even his memory of the tabloid reports of him dressed up as a Nazi are tied to this insecurity. Why wasn’t the focus on his brother, who was wearing a “skintight” leotard?

But there are also advantages to being overlooked.

William, Harry says, believed his younger brother exploited his “spare” status to curry favor with “Granny,” the queen, when he asked her to break with army rules and wear his beard on his wedding. “You put her in an uncomfortable position, Harold! She had no choice but to say yes.”

And, there’s that tense, desperate moment when, inside Nottingham Cottage, Harry says William decked him over frustration with the new duchess’ seeming inability to fit in. “She’s rude. She’s abrasive. She’s alienated half the staff,” William reportedly says. The real motivation for the physical altercation, according to Harry? “I wasn’t dutifully playing the role of the Spare,” he writes.

You have to admire his honesty — and it’s somewhat impossible not to feel sorry for him (even if the repetition does get tedious).

This side of Harry — a man prepared to take at least some accountability for much of the drama that the English media, in particular, has hitherto blamed on Markle — is new.

In TV interviews — with Oprah Winfrey in 2021 and in last year’s Netflix series “Harry & Meghan”— Harry presented himself as a cultural warrior dutifully supporting his wife’s battle against the systemic racist bigotry of the outdated institution that was his family. He was a man who’d seen the light.

Even in recent promotional interviews, Harry has still often spun his airing of the royal laundry as noble. At least he’s going on the record, he says, whereas his family members use anonymous mouthpieces to leak garbage on their relatives.

But in “Spare,” a sadder, smaller truth is writ large on page after page. The details show a far more complex picture of “the bad guys,” precisely because the author’s vision is clearly constricted by his feelings about his circumstances.

Reading between the lines, King Charles comes off as loving, not remote or anachronistic. He calls Harry “my darling boy.” He takes Harry to see Shakespeare. He drops Harry off at Sandhurst to begin his time at the military academy. Before Charles gets too old, he plays tag with his son. He bonds with Meghan over Chopin. The king is not perfect, but he’s decent.

So, too, despite all Harry’s resentment, seems to be his brother. William stays by Harry’s side the night before Harry’s wedding, only leaving to stay the night with Kate and his kids. (And for Harry to begrudge him that last bit — which he does — feels petty.)

The main villain is Camilla, who, in Harry’s telling, becomes the leaker-in-chief in order to protect herself. He rarely mentions Camilla without also mentioning how she usurped his mother.

The runner-up villain is Kate. But on this topic, Harry’ resentment gets the better of him. In the way he describes interactions with his sister-in-law, he clearly wants the reader to choose Meghan over Kate. Informality over formality. The spare’s wife over the heir’s. But in the end, I don’t think readers will choose. They’ll read “Spare” and see that, personalities aside, the chief culprit for Harry’s lifelong resentment is the unfortunate law of primogeniture.

Until he met and married Meghan, other than when he was in the army (another escape), Harry struggled to make sense of his life. But his wife, an American, presented him with the opportunity to do something he says he has always wanted: to break free of his family and make a statement. Even in his teens, Harry sensed he’d one day break the mold. He writes, “Part of me really did want to do something totally outside the box, something that would make everyone in the family, in the country, sit up and say: What the—?”

Well, with his marriage to Meghan, their exit, and “Spare,” he’s done it. Hopefully he can finally find some happiness.

Are the British Press As Bad as Prince Harry Says?

On Tuesday, in a single sitting, I read Prince Harry’s memoir, Spare. I’ve written a review for NBC which you can read here.

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about a central assertion of Harry’s: His allegation that the British press, particularly the tabloids, are singularly deplorable.

Harry can’t stand their intrusion or the unfairness of the made-up or exaggerated stories. Harry says that the same paparazzi who hounded his mother to her death forced him and Meghan to flee the country. He says they don’t report on the royal family as much as do business with it—in the guise of reporting.

On “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on Tuesday night, Harry looked emotional and exhausted as he blamed the British media for irresponsibly singling out what he’d said about killing 25 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan without, he said, providing the necessary nuance and context of the description in his book. Their sensationalism, he said, had endangered his family.

Is his characterization fair?

I’ll give you my perspective.

Read the rest at “Vicky Ward Investigates.”

From the Desk of Vicky Ward: The Real Mystery about Prince Harry’s “Spare”

I promised that in 2023, along with bigger reports, I’d give you a glimpse of what happens when I sit at my desk. Well, right now, I’m mulling how to crack a mystery.

No, it isn’t why Prince William was reportedly so annoyed about the “difficult,” “rude,” and “abrasive” Meghan Markle that he reportedly thumped his brother Harry.

It’s this: Why is it that, for the past four or five years, a New York-based British reporter for the Guardian ALWAYS gets hold of embargoed copies of hot, controversial books days, if not weeks, before everyone else does—and thus is able to break the juicy gossip inside the covers, thereby destroying the publisher’s carefully-planned rollouts and kiboshing TV exclusives?

Sources Tell Me the Invisible Men from Jeffrey Epstein’s World Are Running Scared

We enter 2023 with yet more questions about Jeffrey Epstein. More pointedly, as I’ve asked before: Where are the men who should be held to account? There is no way Epstein acted alone. There is also no way that Ghislaine Maxwell was the sole player in an enterprise involving hundreds of women and reportedly lasting 30 years. What about the men who propped Epstein up, participating and enabling his sex-trafficking scheme, and yet whose names we may not know and who have never been held accountable?

The more that people look, the more invisible the men seem to become.

And as Ghislaine Maxwell—who almost certainly knows more than she has said publicly—sits in prison in Florida, I have been receiving calls from numerous people asking: Is she safe there?

Read about why that concern might be justified at “Vicky Ward Investigates.”

 

Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game

upon the release of his taxes, it appears that Donald Trump has paid astonishingly little federal income tax ($750 in 2017) and even zero in 2020. The Washington Post wants you to think this is a “setback” for him, but I’m not sure that is true. In fact, the New York Times reports that Trump’s own tax law hurt him.

So, could this be that rare instance where Trump deserves less focus than the tax code that gave him so much wiggle room?

I think so. Here’s why.

Read the rest at “Vicky Ward Investigates.”

England’s Big Chill

I am back in London for the holidays. As you may recall just a couple of weeks ago, I was here for a wedding and had a fascinating conversation with a taxi driver. It emerged that the country is riddled with striking unions in an alarmingly large number of sectors.

So, on my return, one of my British friends showed me a pamphlet she’d received in the mail from her local council, entitled “Stay Healthy and Warm this Winter.” She figured, rightly, that, like the cab driver’s narrative, it’d give me further insight into the current state of affairs in England.

This time, the picture was even bleaker than that of the cab driver’s.

Read the rest at “Vicky Ward Investigates.”

All Roads Lead to Jared Kushner!

So, there he was, photographed at the World Cup Final. In the VVIP box. In Qatar.

The brazenness is fascinating.

I’m talking not about Elon Musk, the leading contender as the world’s most controversial billionaire—who, wrongly in my opinion, has been the focus of most news articles covering the event. Why shouldn’t Musk be at the World Cup?

Kushner on the other hand? Well, there is a very good reason he shouldn’t have been there, as it happens.

As I reported last weekend, there’s currently an amping up of the congressional investigation into whether Kushner’s family business was saved by a firm whose second biggest shareholder was the Qatari Investment Authority—at a time when Jared was Senior White House Advisor (where his unofficial title was “Secretary of Everything”) and the Qataris needed U.S. help in ending a Saudi- and Emirati-driven blockade that had reportedly begun with Kushner’s knowledge but not the knowledge of the U.S. secretaries of state and defense. In the spring of 2018, following a visit to the White House by Qatar’s Emir, the U.S. withdrew its support of the blockade of Qatar. And then the Kushner business was suddenly saved—by a fund in which the Qataris had a huge stake. The two events occurred within weeks of each other.

Coincidence? Or more? That’s exactly what Congress wants to know.

And yet here, investigation notwithstanding, is Kushner. In Qatar—the very Middle East state that is the focus of his troubles. Standing publicly beside Musk, whose acquisition of Twitter has meant there’s rarely a day the billionaire is not in the news. If ever a gesture was designed to flip the bird, this surely is it.

The photograph of the pair—who, comically, do look as if they could be plotting world domination—has spawned news articles questioning what the nature of their relationship is.

Well, one answer is in my 2019 book, Kushner. Inc.

Read the rest at “Vicky Ward Investigates.”